Kali (pronounced Kah-lee’) the tiger was born in a travel trailer in the year 2000 the day after her mother and a transport full of tigers, leopards, cougars, bears and wolves were dropped off at the Augusta Conservation Education in GA. The founder of the organization rescued over 300 animals in the 20 years that he ran the facility, but by 2014 he could no longer afford it and began placing the remaining animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare asked if we could take Kali, the last cat on the site and we agreed.
The Hindu goddess Kali is the fierce destructive form of the wife of Shiva, but also considered the goddess of time and change.
Kali’s previous owner shared many of Big Cat Rescue’s ideals of a sanctuary including no breeding, buying, or selling, but he did believe in physical interaction with his animals.
Big Cat Rescue takes a hands off approach to working with the big cats. Even though these animals were born and raised in captivity they are still wild animals and having close physical interaction puts both the people and animals at risk of serious injury.
Overall Kali was well cared for. She had been fed a good diet and had a spacious although barren cage. Because Kali was so well fed she was very difficult to lure into a transport cage. Her owner did not want Kali to be sedated and so he spent weeks trying to get her accustomed to going in the transport cage to receive her food. His patience paid off and the day of the rescue Kali loaded up within seconds.
When Kali first arrived she was depressed. She would spend the entire day sulking from atop her platform. At dinner time she would come down to eat, but would then immediately go right back up to her perch. Perhaps she missed her owner and the interactions they shared.
Most of our cats were mistreated before their arrival and are happy to find a new home where they are loved and fed a good diet. Kali had a different experience in that she was cared for, and then suddenly was moved away from the only home she had ever known. A lot of people rescue animals with the best intentions, but when life happens they find themselves no longer able to provide for the animals that they have committed to.
This was the case with Kali’s owner. He was going through a bitter divorce and neither he nor his wife were able to provide sanctuary to the animals that they had rescued.
Thankfully for Kali she will never have to worry about being moved from her home again. Big Cat Rescue will provide her with a stable and loving home for the rest of her life.
A few weeks after her arrival Kali made a complete turn around. She bounces up to keepers chuffing all the way, plays with her toys and enrichment, and loves lounging in the tall soft grass.
Big Cat Rescue will be her forever home because we operate this sanctuary in a responsible manner that ensures all of our cats will have a permanent home regardless of changes in the economy or even the leadership of the sanctuary. We have done this by creating detailed strategic plans, setting aside money for reserves and training all of our staff and volunteers extensively. People like you, who learn about the plight of these cats, and who donate to help, are the way we can continue to help cats like Kali.
Male DOB 1/1/03
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)
Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid
I first met JoJo the Caracal / Serval hybrid at the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in 2005 after a hurricane had taken down the perimeter fencing and dumped piles of deadfall on the cages.
The owner, Dirk Neugebohm, had ended up in the hospital with a heart attack from trying to clean the mess up by himself.
He wrote from what he thought was his deathbed back then to anyone and everyone he could think of asking for help; and asking for help was not something that came easily to this hard working German.
What we found, when Howard and I visited, was a man who was way in over his head. Donations were almost non existent, the cages were old, dilapidated, small and concrete floored. The freezer had been damaged and he had lost his food supply, so we sent food and volunteers to help him clean up and rebuild.
The tiger back then was Sinbad, who lived in what is commonly used for housing parrots. An oval corn crib cage with a metal roof. Sinbad died recently after a snake bite, leaving Krishna, pictured, as the only remaining tiger.
We had a donor and a sanctuary (Safe Haven in NV) that were willing to take Krishna, but we were told that the Florida Wildlife Commission had found someone less than 6 miles away to take him.
Dirk managed to keep his sanctuary afloat, if just barely, for the next 8 years, but a couple days ago one of his volunteers, Vickie Saez, who we had been helping for the past couple of years with infrastructure and social networking, contacted us to say that Dirk was dying of brain cancer in the hospital and that she had convinced him to let the animals go to other homes. She said the Florida Wildlife Commission had arranged for most of the homes, but that Dirk was very happy that we could take JoJo. Our sweet Caracal, Rose, had died July 31st and her cage was empty.
We were told that all of the other cats had new homes waiting, except for Nola the cougar, but she was very ill. We offered to pay a vet to do blood work on her to make sure that she was not contagious. We were concerned because she had a history of some very contagious diseases, which had left her severely debilitated. What concerned us was that her caretaker said she looked bloated.
A vet had arrived to help with the transfer of two leopards to a place in Jupiter. He sedated Nola to see what was wrong.
We are told that he palpitated three melon sized tumors in her abdomen and that with every touch of her belly she exuded foamy blood from her nose and anus. He was sure that there was no hope for her and humanely euthanized her.
This photo was Nola back in 2011. While we were sad that we would not be able to give Nola a new home here at Big Cat Rescue we are glad that she is not suffering any more.
JoJo at Big Cat Rescue
JoJo has arrived at Big Cat Rescue and settled in nicely. It is quite possibly his first time to walk on the soft earth.
His cage has been a small (maybe 60 square feet) of concrete and chain link for at least 8 years and probably longer. He is thought to be about 10 years old. Sometimes breeders hybridize exotic cats because there are no laws on the books that regulate them, but in Florida, the inspectors say, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck; it’s a duck.”
JoJo now has 1,200 square feet of earth, bushes, trees and grass.
He really likes the grass. Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”
Keisha was the second generation of tigers born at that facility and some reports state than five generations were born there over the years.
Keisha is missing a portion of her ear and her entire tail. JnK volunteers reported that she lost both to two lions that shared a common wall with her. It is unknown if she received veterinary care for these injuries or was left that way and luckily survived. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Despite the first fourteen years of her life being a horrible experience that no animal should have had to endure Keisha’s spirit was never broken. She is full of life and very outgoing. She loves Zeus and once he is neutered we hope to introduce the two.
One of the top experience with Keisha since her arrival was her very first Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Keepers stood by in awe as Keisha pounced around her enclosure as happy as could be with the big bird in her mouth. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to play with it or eat it so she did both for hours. Being witness to such joy from an animal that has seen so much suffering makes the long hours and hard work all worth while.
Keisha the tiger was born in 2000 at a pseudo sanctuary in Sinclairville, NY called JnK’s Call of the Wild. While the website proclaimed to be a sanctuary, in fact, all but one of the 11 tigers had been bred for use as pay to play props. According to volunteers, Zeus was the son of the original female, Kimba, and then was bred back to his mother to create the other 9 tigers, including Keisha. This is commonly done on purpose to create white tigers, which are the result of severe inbreeding.
What we saw during the rescue was unimaginable suffering and conditions that clearly threatened everyone in the area. JnK had a pile of citations for not allowing inspectors onto the property, but in many cases those are considered by the bad guys to be far less incriminating than actually answering the gate and letting inspectors see what they are doing.
The NY state attorney’s office decided to send a message to all of the backyard breeders, dealers and pseudo sanctuaries that they would no longer turn a blind eye to the danger that these facilities pose to the public and launched the biggest seizure of wild animals in New York’s history. With the help of IFAW and several sanctuaries 11 tigers, 3 lions, 3 bears, and 2 wolves were rescued that day in May of 2014.
Keisha only has half an ear and a little bobbed tail. We think she lost them to the lions who lived in the cage next door to her in NY. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Big Cat Rescue had gone to NY expecting to bring home four of the tigers, but one had passed away before we got there and no one seemed to know when or how. The other tiger, who was Keisha and Zeus’ mom, was a 20 year old tigress named Kimba. She was in such bad condition that we were not able to save her, but at least she died here in comfort, surrounded by love.
Maybe the worst thing about the entire situation in NY was that it is typical of how big cats are treated in America. You can put an end to that by never paying to see or touch a cub.
The romance didn’t last long. Keisha is just too playful and pounce-y and just scared Zeus half to death so much of the time that we had to separate them. They live close to each other, but have their own space to live in peace.
Zabu was born at a circus and roadside zoo in New England that has since closed.
Zabu was raised and housed with Cameron, a male lion, neither of which were spayed or neutered. Leaving these two intact cats together could have had grotesque consequences resulting in the birth of ligers. These genetically mutated cross-breeds are victim to a plethora of birth defects that plague the animal its entire life. These freakish hybrids have become popular, though this is not an animal that would even exist in the wild.
It is important that people understand that by refusing to visit venues with these animals on display, this type of animal abuse can be stopped. White tigers also do not exist in the wild. They can neither hide from attack nor sneak on prey. Man has created the glut of white tigers in captivity today through rampant inbreeding.
Because white tigers are all so deeply inbred, they all carry genetic flaws. Zabu is no exception. She has a shortened upper lip leaving her teeth exposed and unprotected. For every white tiger you may see in captivity, many normal colored tigers have died. Since public demand for the white tiger has driven up prices for them, more and more are being bred. Those that are born “the wrong color” are discarded in various horrific ways.
When Zabu and Cameron were rescued we constructed a large natural enclosure for the two of them to share since they are truly bonded as a couple. Cameron received a vasectomy shortly after his arrival to prevent any cubs from being produced. The two lived together happily for years, however, when Zabu would go into heat Cameron would become possessive over her and aggressive towards keepers. Zabu was spayed in order to curb this behavior which was successful for a few more years.
Cameron reverted to his previous behavior and the decision was made to neuter him, which would mean he would lose his beautiful mane. The loss was merely cosmetic and well worth the price to keep this loving pair together.
While Cameron tries to sleep most of the day away (as lions do in the wild), Zabu is extremely energetic and is always pestering him to play. She’ll often give up on him and just run and jump and play with her big red ball or splash endlessly in her pool. Of course, that’s after she’s tired of playfully stalking her keepers or trying to spray the groups of visitors that stop by.
Carole’s Presentation to Volunteers About White Tigers
I’ve been working in the area by Zabu for the past several days and have had the pleasure of hearing tour guides talking about the white tiger issue. I have heard the amazement in the voices of the guests as they learned that every thing they thought knew about white tigers was wrong.
I have heard guests try to argue the facts or ignore the new information by proclaiming that they still think white tigers are beautiful. It has given me a new appreciation for what all of you go through when giving tours. It especially impresses me that some of you, who are still so new to the knowledge yourselves, manage to be firm in your presentations while still being kind to the guests.
This week a thirty year old secret was exposed in Newsweek, the second largest weekly magazine in America. Sharyn Beach exposed it in Britannica Online Encyclopedia in March of this year. It is the same secret that Big Cat Rescue exposed 11 years ago as the first organization to go public with the truth about the white tiger.
What I knew in 1998 was that people could sell a white tiger cub for $60,000 and just about all of the breeders and dealers and zoos were out to breed them. I had been to facilities such as the one where Shere Khan was born, and where Modnic, TJ & Bella came from and where Auroara had come from. What I saw haunted me because I saw many tigers who had horrible deformities; teeth going in all directions, eyes out on the nose, clubbed feet and lame hips.
These birth defects were primarily in the white tigers, but some of their golden litter mates were affected as well. I started asking about who the tigers’ parents were, who their siblings were, and discovered that people were inbreeding these cats. They never used that word, but rather would say “line breeding” or “selective breeding” or they would make outrageous claims about how they had “created” a line of white tigers by choosing the best pairings. In 1998 there were only 200 white tigers world wide. With Siegfried and Roy promoting white tigers as Royal White Bengal tigers the breeders scurried to meet demand.
Especially complicit were the Cincinnati Zoo & the Nashville Zoo who knew that the origins of white tigers only came from severe inbreeding. It was common knowledge to breeders that there was an 80% mortality rate. They should have put an end to it right then and there, but white tigers were a novelty and people would pay to see them. The accredited zoos, who actually keep pedigrees on their tigers, knew that inbreeding was the only way to increase their probability of getting that money making white cub.
In 1998 I still thought that most of the breeders and dealers out there were just ignorant. I was a member of AZA and had been attending their conferences and meeting their cat experts to find out what they thought to be best practices. I thought that if the private sector knew better they would behave better and so I spent a lot of time writing articles for their club called the Feline Conservation Federation. I was part of their list serve and participated in discussions about exotic cat husbandry in the hopes of helping their cats have better lives. We had only had the Internet for a couple of years and were still trying to find ways to use it to band all exotic cat owners together for a comprehensive repository of information on best practices. Our own website had only been up for two years and I was using it as a way of making all of the lessons we had learned available for everyone else. I figured the reason all of these breeders had so many defective tigers was because they didn’t know that they were all so inbred and they were just making it worse by not keeping records.
I proposed all of what I knew about white tigers on our website and suggested that we create a registry of all of the cats in the private sector, along with micro chipping, to make sure that no more cats suffered from such terrible birth defects. I quickly learned that the people making money off the white tigers knew what they were doing and ignored the agony they were inflicting.
About a year later a veterinarian wrote to me after finding our white tiger page on the Internet. He said that we were the only people telling the truth and that he had the full story because he had been the veterinarian for the Las Vegas duo for many years, as well as the vet for several large zoos. He had worked with 250 tigers. He spent 20 years documenting the origins and malpractice involved in breeding white tigers and had never found a way to make his findings publicly known. The zoos didn’t want anyone to know. Dr. Dan Laughlin and I spent hours on the phone pouring over the documents he had sent me to convince me of his credentials and his findings.
We launched his letter on our website which culminated in his statement,
“…every white tiger in the U.S. is not only the result of repeated inbreeding of genetically defective animals but, even worse, is a hybrid or crossbred animal. Thus, anyone involved in breeding and/or exhibiting white tigers is doing a great disservice to honest conservation and preservation efforts to save the five remaining and endangered subspecies of tigers barely clinging to survival…”
We also quoted Ron Tilson, the head of the tiger species survival plan who said,
“The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose…”
“However, there is an unspoken issue that shames the very integrity of zoos, their alleged conservation programs and their message to the visiting public. To produce white tigers or any other phenotypic curiosity, directors of zoos and other facilities must continuously inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. At issue is a contradiction of fundamental genetic principles upon which all Species Survival Plans for endangered species in captivity are based. White tigers are an aberration artificially bred and proliferated by some zoos, private breeders and a few circuses who do so for economic rather than conservation reasons.”
Our tour guides began sharing this information with our visitors. We began writing letters to USDA, state wildlife agencies and to the media to raise awareness about the horrific practice of inbreeding to get white tigers.
The breeders, dealers, zoos and circus acts who were profiting from white tigers saw us as public enemy number one. There was no way they could prove the outrageous stories they were promoting about how these cats came from hidden islands, or were the product of their animal husbandry genius. If anyone looked beyond the image in front of them, they would find out the truth and that would mean the end of their profits. White tiger sales began to plummet, both from the over abundance of animals born and because more people were becoming aware of the inbreeding. I have seen white tiger cubs selling for as little as $1000.00. I have lost track of the number of adults who were offered to us for free and sometimes people even offering to pay us to take them so they could make space for more cubs.
Zabu the White Tiger
The people who went from making $60,000 for a white cub to only $1000 for a white cub have no excuse for what they do. The only thing they can do is to try and discredit us. That is why they are always attacking us, and me in particular.
The breeders and dealers seem to spend all their time talking trash about me. Little do they realize that it is actually helping us show the world what kind of person would breed white tigers.
Thanks to the pressure that Big Cat Rescuers have kept on them, the AZA came out with a policy statement against breeding white tigers fairly recently, even though they do not yet enforce it strongly.
It is so exciting to me to see that we have persevered through more than a decade of trying to get the world to see that breeding white tigers (especially) is cruel and unconscionable. To see Britannica and Newsweek running stories that tell the truth is a HUGE win! This was the headline caption for the Newsweek story this past week, “Bred for profit, the animals are often cruelly deformed by inbreeding.” The only reason the truth is being exposed is because of you. No one else was willing to take on the Goliath of zoos, circuses and Las Vegas. The day is coming when no more tigers will be purposely inbred to create a freak for the paying public. That day is coming because Big Cat Rescuers won’t give up until it does.
Nikita was found chained to the wall in a crack house during a drug bust in Tennessee. Because she had been confined to a concrete floor, she had huge swellings on her elbows that took months to heal. She was so thin that you could carry her under one arm. She would only eat white rabbits, so she had a plethora of nutritional issues to deal with as well.
The authorities took her to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but she had been declawed and could not live with the zoo’s other lions. They had to find a new home for her, so we received the call. Big Cat Rescue agreed to take Nikita in, as well as three other Bobcats who all arrived on 11/30/01.
Nikita has flourished under our care. She has grown into a tall, lanky, healthy lioness. She’s extremely playful and loves to roll on her back and grab her paws or try to do somersaults whenever she has visitors stopping by to talk with her. Though we wish she had the freedom she deserves, we’re so happy that she survived her earlier ordeals to enjoy the blissful days we try to provide for her here.
LION VS Big Yellow Ball = Lion Wins! Watch our goofy lioness Nikita take on her new yellow boomer ball! Enrichment is an important part of our cats lives at the sanctuary they will never be free and wild, so we have to keep their minds stimulated with new toys and enrichment, ensuring the best quality life in captivity. http://bigcatrescue.org/lion-vs-big-yellow-ball/
This leopard demonstrates, better than most, the fact that you may be able to take the animal out of the wild but you will never take the wild out of the animal. Sundari will watch very closely as groups of people walk through the sanctuary. She immediately sizes up “the herd” from a distance and determines who is the weakest, the youngest or the most infirm. That is the person who gets her utmost attention. She’s even been seen climbing to the top of her enclosure just to get a closer look at whomever she has singled out. It is easy to explain the concept of “survival of the fittest” with Sundari’s enthusiastic demonstrations. Two of our senior volunteers love the way Sundari will roll over on her back showing everyone just how beautiful she is in hopes of finding a “boy” leopard – or at least someone who wants to volunteer to be a boy leopard.
“Sunny” has so many places she loves to lounge in her cat-a-tat. You’ll find her literally hanging from her tree sound asleep or draped across her concrete bench with all four legs dangling over the side or on top of her mountain den or just upside down in the middle of her cat-a-tat with her belly proudly in view. She’s very personable and always interested in anyone who comes by to visit. With this personality, she’s earned her nickname.
Sundari was born here back before we learned that no privately held exotic cats serve any sort of conservation purpose. Back then, in the pre-Internet era of the 90’s, the only people we could turn to for advice were breeders and dealers who lied to us about the necessity of breeding exotic cats to save them. As soon as we learned better we stopped breeding and began campaigning to end the abuse of breeding wild cats for life in cages.